Categorized as: Adult Gymnastics

Is Stretching Supposed to be That Painful?

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Pain. It’s the big thing that draws people to getting flexible but one of the main things that keeps us away from stretching. 

So is pain in stretching a good thing, and if so how do I get around it?

Number one is to understand there are two kinds of pain. ‘Burning’ pain you feel while stretching is good. Think of it like going to the gym or doing a Crossfit WoD – you hurt the day after, right? It’s a sign of your muscles rebuilding stronger – or longer in the case of stretching – after they’ve worked hard.

Stabbing pain you want to avoid. If you’ve broken a bone, twisted something or dropped a plate on your foot you know what I mean.

How do you keep it to the good pain then, and make even that as comfortable as possible?

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1. Breathing. The deeper you breathe, the more you relax, and relaxed muscles get more flexible with less burning pain – think of it as giving your muscles what they want. Less fight = good news.

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2. Distraction. Have a conversation with your stretching partner, watch TV, it helps focus away from the pain, and reducing focus on pain tends to reduce the pain itself. Plus any excuse to catch up on Netflix I could go for.

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3. Listen. To your body. Go slow, if your body wants to open up today, it will. Pushing to far too fast turns stretching pain into stabbing pain = ton muscles = major setback to your flexibility. 

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4. Position. Stretch in a way that doesn’t damage joints, experiment or ask an expert for advice.  

Stay smart & stay safe. Felix

So What If You’re Not Flexible?

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The first step to getting flexible is to start where you are.

When looking at flexibility it’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘I should be better.’ That’s when our ego gets in the way, we push harder and faster than we should, and end up pulling a muscle.

Bad move.

Know where you are, accept it as being OK, then you can advance. Here are a few tips to help you get on top of your ego:

1. Admit how you feel about not being flexible and get everything off your chest. No more than 20 minutes on this. Then accept it as being OK.

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2. Focus on improvements and not the status quo. Rather than saying ‘I can’t touch my toes’ all the time, say ‘I’m closer than yesterday.’

3. Don’t worry about others who are better than you. Be happy for them, and only compare yourself to how you were before.

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4. Focus on good technique and consistent work rather than the destination. Straight legs, deep breaths, relax as much as you can. The destination will come before you know it.

Come to the flexibility classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and you will learn exactly that.

Breathe and Relax and Let the Flexibility Flow

Relaxing is the easiest way to get further with your stretches and flexibility.

How so? Isn’t stretching supposed to be painful?

That’s the interesting part. When you tense up it IS painful. When you let go and relax it isn’t so much.

Note how Pawel and Sakia below are both adopting a relaxed stance below.

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Exercise

Try this. Go into a stretch of your choice: touch your toes, hold a leg behind you, whatever. Then as you start the stretch, BREATHE.

Breathing is proven to be an easy way to get your body to relax.

Breathe long, slow, deep breaths. In for four seconds. Out for four. Breathe as deep as you can, then try to breathe a bit more.

Emphasise the out breath and use this time to move deeper into your stretch. Think of expelling all the stiffness and inhaling new flexibility.

 

Facial expression also helps. Your body tends to follow what the rest of it does, so relax your face as much as you can. Look, Pavel is even smiling!

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The more you breathe and get used to it, the more you are able to focus on the muscles and willingly get them to relax. There are times when this is particularly useful, such as the stretch below:

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For any stretch where you are folded over breathing becomes harder, so some level of thought into relaxing the muscles is essential.

Take Away

Over the next week, monitor yourself and pay attention to when you feel really relaxed. Maybe you’re having a massage, a hot shower, a sauna.

Pay attention to how your body feels and go back to this memory each time you stretch. This becomes your ‘anchor’ and before you know it, your body relaxes without effort and then the flexibility starts to flow.